The Malaysian Palm Oil Board and Orion Genomics Complete the Sequencing and Analysis of Three Oil Palm Genomes

November 9, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia and ST. LOUIS, Nov. 9 /PRNewswire/ — The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and Orion Genomics today announced that a consortium co-led by the Advanced Biotechnology and Breeding Centre of MPOB and Orion Genomics has sequenced three oil palm genomes from two oil palm species, an important food and biofuel crop. This genome sequencing effort provides a comprehensive genetic blueprint of E. oleifera and E. guineensis including the pisifera and dura palms. In commercial seed production, the pisifera is frequently used as the paternal line and the dura serves as the maternal palm.

Oil palm plantations on average produce 3.9 tons of oil per hectare per year, nearly ten times more than other productive oil bearing crops. Therefore, it has the potential to meet growing demand for food and renewable fuel. Used in cooking oil, margarine, baked goods and other foods, palm oil is the most consumed edible oil in the world. It feeds more than 3 billion people in 150 countries worldwide, and it is also a common ingredient in soaps and cosmetics. In 2008, Malaysia produced 17.7 million tons of crude palm oil and exported RM65.2 billion (US $17.6 billion) of palm oil products. New technologies are now enabling palm oil to be transformed into biodiesel, a promising renewable fuel.

The oil palm family has two species, the E. guineensis which originates from Africa and the E. oleifera, which is native to South America. Because of its high productivity, the E. guineensis is the commercial variety planted in Malaysia. However, the E. oleifera has many interesting traits such as low height increment, increased resistance to disease and produces higher quantities of unsaturated fats – traits that will add value if incorporated into commercial E. guineensis lines.

“Knowledge of the genomic sequence of these oil palm varieties enables researchers to understand genetic differences between trees that are, for example, higher yielding or more resistant to disease than usual,” said Datuk Dr. Mohd Basri Wahid, the Director-General of MPOB. “Our goal in completing the oil palm genome sequence is to dramatically improve oil yields both for the production of food, feed and fuel.”

The consortium included St. Louis, Missouri-based Orion Genomics, MOgene LC and The Genome Center at Washington University, South Korea-based Macrogen Inc., and Adelaide, Australia-based GeneWorks Pty Ltd. In addition to sequencing and assembling the genomes of the three oil palm varieties, the consortium sequenced the expressed genes (or transcriptome) from multiple tissue types for all three types of oil palm. Transcriptome sequence will aid oil palm researchers as they seek to understand the genes responsible for yield, disease resistance and resistance to environmental stress. The initiative generated the most comprehensive genetic and transcriptional maps to date of this important crop.

MPOB and Orion, along with MOgene, LC, also unveiled plans to study the epigenetic makeup of oil palm in 2010 in an effort to improve yields.

“Epigenetics is the study of the pattern of chemical groups that influence whether specific genes are turned on or off,” said Nathan Lakey, President and Chief Executive Officer of Orion Genomics. “We theorize that by studying oil palm epigenetics, we may be able to help speed the development of varieties of oil palm that produce more oil, rapidly increasing the per acre efficiency of this crop, which already is the single largest producer of edible oils worldwide.”

About Epigenetics

Epigenetics consist of, among other things, changes to a layer of information written on top of the DNA molecule in the form of DNA methylation. DNA methylation controls whether or not a gene is turned on or off, also called gene silencing. Epigenetic changes can be associated with differences in agronomic traits between crop plants that are genetically identical, including differences in disease and environmental stress resistance and crop yield.

About MPOB

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) was established on May 1, 2000 with the principal objective of promoting, developing and advancing the Malaysian palm oil industry. As the steward of the nation’s palm oil industry, MPOB is responsible for providing the scientific and technological support to the Malaysian palm oil industry. MPOB’s commitment to the industry is not limited to Research and Development (R & D), but also encompasses dissemination of information, technology transfer, commercialization, registration, licensing and enforcement activities.

About Orion Genomics

Orion Genomics, the Second Code Company, develops epigenetic research tools and molecular diagnostic products to fulfill the promise of personalized medicine. Orion’s lead product is a simple blood-based test that is being developed to identify people at elevated risk for colorectal cancer. The company has active biomarker discovery programs in cancers of the bladder, breast, lung, ovaries and colon, and the company offers genomics services to the medical, agricultural and bio-fuels research communities. Orion Genomics is located in the Center for Emerging Technologies in St. Louis. For more information, visit the Orion Genomics website at http://www.oriongenomics.com.

About Macrogen

Macrogen is a Korean bio-venture company established in 1997. As a leading biotechnology company, Macrogen has provided high-quality DNA sequencing service to more than 10,000 researchers in over 100 countries worldwide with sequencing platforms such as 3730xl, GAIIx, SOLiD3, and GS-FLX. It also has subsidiary laboratories in USA, Japan, and Netherlands for more localized and customized service. Macrogen fully sequenced and annotated the whole genome of a Korean individual, which was published in Nature on 20th August, 2009. NGS (Next Generation Sequencing) and capillary sequencing platforms were combined to accomplish the project. With these accumulated experiences, Macrogen has shown its successful performances in numerous large scale sequencing projects. In addition, Macrogen has also launched ‘Asian 100 Genome Project’ in June this year to identify Asian specific markers related to diseases. For more information, visit the website of Macrogen Inc. at www.macrogen.com.

SOURCE Orion Genomics

Source: newswire

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